Sugar industry blasts show for featuring controversial health research
By SEAN ELLIS
The U.S. sugar industry believes a "60 Minutes" piece that claims sugar is toxic and creating a public health crisis was one-sided and ignored peer-reviewed research.
"Clearly, the information provided on that segment is majorly misleading," said Vic Jaro, president and CEO of Amalgamated Sugar Co., which is owned and operated by hundreds of Idaho sugar beet growers.
The "60 Minutes" piece, which aired April 1, claims emerging research shows sugar is a toxin linked to many health woes, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and even cancer.
In the piece, Dr. Robert Lustig of the University of California tells reporter and physician, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, that the consumption of sugar is a public health crisis and that sugar needs to be regulated and come with warnings similar to those for alcohol and tobacco products.
"I got madder and madder the longer I listened," Jaro said. "It was very one-sided. There is a lot of peer-reviewed research out there that counters what was presented on the program. That should have been presented and it was not."
Sugar beet grower Duane Grant of Rupert, Idaho, said the piece was fittingly aired on April 1 because he thought it was a journalistic joke.
"A lot of growers are really upset about it," he said. "They feel the methods that were used in the report didn't meet the standards of a good scientific investigation. So the conclusions drawn are really unsubstantiated by accepted scientific process. Yellow journalism is what it is."
The Sugar Association spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said her group worked with "60 Minutes" producers for months on the story and provided them with a lot of peer-reviewed research that refuted what was presented on the program.
"We gave them all kinds of information (and) they chose to leave all of this stuff on the cutting room floor," she said.
The Sugar Association said in a statement that the segment "chose a skewed approach that is a disservice to consumers because it focused on one-sided research results and hypotheses. The segment amplified inaccuracies, unproven hypotheses and baseless accusations."
While the segment did point out that consumption of natural sugar has declined 40 percent since 1970, it said high fructose corn syrup has made up the difference and the average American now consumes 130 pounds of sugar a year. Lustig said high fructose corn syrup and natural sugar are basically equivalent and equally toxic.
The Sugar Association statement said "60 Minutes'" approach overshadowed the fact that total caloric intake remains the main cause of myriad illnesses facing Americans and that every major review of the full body of scientific evidence has concluded that sugar intake is not linked to any lifestyle disease.
Mitchell said the reason there are no federal intake levels for sugar is that a large number of scientific studies "continue to show that no diet-related illnesses are created by sugar."
"Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, all the things Lustig talks about (being caused by sugar), the peer-reviewed body of evidenced shows that's not the case," she said.
More information on sugar and sweetener research is available on The Sugar Association website: http://www.sugar.org/sugars-and-sweeteners-research/
Link to 60 Minutes story from CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7403942n
Link to YouTube video, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, Lustig's lecture mentioned in the 60 Minutes story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM